Meeting Cigar was a highlight of late 2007 for me. I missed my chance to see John Henry one more time...I met him back in '88 when I was just a kid & planned a day trip to Lexington in early October '07 on a day off when I heard he wasn't doing well. Sadly, it wasn't meant to be. I was going to be about a week too late & would have to settle for paying my respects to a fresh grave and his empty stall.
By the time I got there it was incredibly emotional...his stall & grave were overflowing with beautiful flowers, gifts &cards. People were crying, paying their respects & sharing stories. It was nothing but quiet sorrow on John's side of the barn.
And then, across the aisle, there was Cigar...somehow he still brought so much light to the barn just with his presence. Can't explain it, really. You just had to smile when he stood tall & looked at you with that big, bright, kind eye of his...almost teasing you before snorting a bit & turning away to look at something that caught his eye outside.
**He had every RIGHT to be proud...to STAND proud...and dammit, he KNEW it!!!**
I'm honored to have met him, and as sad as I was to miss seeing John Henry again & to learn of his passing...honestly, I don't know if that can compare to the sorrow I feel at the loss of Cigar.
I am physically incapable of watching his '95 Classic win without crying, and not ashamed to admit I've shed many tears since his passing. There are a handful of horses in our lifetime who prove to be the best of the best...the true greats...so far I think Cigar is IT in my ~35 years.
A few have been/come very close, John Henry is certainly one & I can probably also mention others like Wise Dan, Holy Bull, Personal Ensign, Curlin...
Still. To borrow the infamous words of the immortal legend, in his own right, Tom Durkin...there will never be another like the "unconquerable, invincible, unbeatable Cigar!"